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Accounting for the changing role of family income in determining college entry


  • Christoph Winter


In recent decades, the US has experienced a widening of the college enrolment gap between rich and poor families. This is commonly interpreted as evidence for a tightening of borrowing constraints. This paper asks whether this is indeed the case. I present an incomplete-markets overlapping-generations model with college enrolment, in which altruistic parents provide transfers to their children. In the model the rise in earnings inequality observed between 1980 and 2000 acts as the driving force for generating the trends in the data. With the help of counterfactual experiments, I find that fraction of constrained households is much higher (24 instead of 8 percent) than indicated by the narrow enrolment gap in 1980. Contrary to what the development of the enrolment gap in the data suggests, the share of constrained households actually fell (to 18 percent) between 1980 and 2000. I show that altruism is important for explaining these findings.

Suggested Citation

  • Christoph Winter, 2009. "Accounting for the changing role of family income in determining college entry," IEW - Working Papers 402, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Dec 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:402

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dominik Sachs & Sebastian Findeisen, 2016. "Optimal Financial Aid Policies for Students," 2016 Meeting Papers 1421, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    2. Matthew T. Johnson, 2010. "Borrowing Constraints, College Enrollment, and Delayed Entry," Working Papers 2011-006, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group, revised Sep 2012.
    3. Brant Abbott & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir & Gianluca Violante, 2013. "Education policy and intergenerational transfers in equilibrium," IFS Working Papers W13/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    4. Matthew T. Johnson, 2013. "Borrowing Constraints, College Enrollment, and Delayed Entry," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(4), pages 669-725.
    5. Findeisen, Sebastian & Sachs, Dominik, 2015. "Designing efficient college and tax policies," Working Papers 15-09, University of Mannheim, Department of Economics.
    6. Florian Wendelspiess Chávez Juárez, 2015. "Intergenerational transmission of education: the relative importance of transmission channels," Latin American Economic Review, Springer;Centro de Investigaciòn y Docencia Económica (CIDE), vol. 24(1), pages 1-44, December.
    7. Christopher Rauh, 2015. "The Political Economy of Early and College Education - Can Voting Bend the Great Gatsby Curve?," 2015 Meeting Papers 82, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    8. Krueger, Dirk & Ludwig, Alexander, 2016. "On the optimal provision of social insurance: Progressive taxation versus education subsidies in general equilibrium," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 72-98.
    9. Gianluca Violante & Giovanni Gallipoli & Costas Meghir, 2005. "Education Decisions, Equilibrium Policies and Wages Dispersion," 2005 Meeting Papers 522, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    10. Geppert, Christian, 2015. "On the Distributional Implications of Demographic Change," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113070, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    11. Sachs, Dominik & Findeisen, Sebastian, 2014. "Designing Efficient Education and Tax Policies," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100504, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    12. repec:spr:laecrv:v:24:y:2015:i:1:p:1-44 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Mariana Alfonso, 2009. "Credit Constraints and the Demand for Higher Education in Latin America," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 2526, Inter-American Development Bank.
    14. Mariana Alfonso, 2009. "Credit Constraints and the Demand for Higher Education in Latin America," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 9314, Inter-American Development Bank.
    15. Florian Wendelspiess Chávez Juárez, 2011. "Intergenerational transmission of education - Uncovering the mechanisms behind high intergenerational correlations," Working Papers 234, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.

    More about this item


    Dynamic general equilibrium models with overlapping generations; parental transfers; college enrolment and borrowing constraints; earnings inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D58 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Computable and Other Applied General Equilibrium Models
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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